LAHORE - The social and political circles, while considering the ever-increasing prices of the petroleum products and commodities a government-energy-mafia's joint venture, said those vowing to provide roti, kapra aur makan to the masses, are actually bent upon snatching all these three things from them. While talking to The Nation on Tuesday, the social and political leaders were of the view that the government, instead of eliminating the poverty, was bent upon eliminating the poor. "The ruling parties are disrespecting the masses' mandate. Independence of the judiciary and the restoration of the deposed judges, impeachment of General (r) Pervez Musharraf, controlling the price-hike and curtailing the deteriorating law and order situation are proving to be distant promises made by the ruling coterie," said Naib Ameer Jama'at-e-Islami Liaqat Baloch asserting that the government's performance during the first 100 days had been pretty despairing, while there was no light at the end of the tunnel. "The increase in the POL prices will further enhance the inflation, which will result in the non-availability of the essential items. Masses are not the priority of the government, as it is snatching roti, kapra aur makan from them," he said. Central Secretary Information Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Umer Sarfraz Cheema, while maintaining that instead of giving relief to the masses, the government had over-burdened the masses by withdrawing subsidy under various heads. "Instead of cutting down on the perks and privileges of their ministers and advisors, the ruling elite comprising a few big gurus of politics, have been found indulged in pleasure trips. To them, democracy was the best revenge, but it seemed to be misdirected now, as they are bent upon avenging their trial and tribulation from the masses instead of the military junta," he said adding that the government and the energy mafia had joined hands against the masses. "Now with the increase in the prices of the POL prices, one can expect the commodity prices going beyond the reach of the masses," he said. Head Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith Pakistan Prof Sajjad Mir said when debts of billions of rupees would be written off, and especially of those who were part of the ruling coterie, then any country could be in the worst of the situation. People from various walks of life were of the view that the government was least bothered about the problems being faced by the masses. "They have set the chess table, and making moves like the Mughal kings, for winning at every cost, whatever that may be. The present government was considered to be a relief-giver, but it seemed to have become a snatcher," they said. Agencies add: Taking serious notice of the current hike in the gas tariff Iqbal Ebrahim, Chairman, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) strongly criticised the announcement of increase in gas prices by the government and urged to immediately withdraw rise in gas tariff of 31 percent on industrial consumers and 68percent on captive power plants. In a statement issued to the press, the APTMA Chairman termed the devastating rise in gas tariff as last nail to the ailing industry especially textile sector which is the backbone of the economy and earning much needed foreign exchange through exports. He added that the textile industry is facing severe shortage of power and suffered production losses in addition to cancellation of export orders. Mr Iqbal Ebrahim said that the recent hike in gas tariff would make textile export costly and render Pakistani textile exports uncompetitive in the international market. Subsequently, India, China and Bangladesh would capture markets presently dominated by Pakistani exporters. He suggested the government that before making any dramatic changes in the gas prices, the stakeholders of the industry should have been taken into confidence and engaged to workout the gas tariff. The Chairman APTMA stated that the government is not in a position to provide uninterrupted power and gas supply to the industry whereas the industry has invested billion of dollars to build their own power generation plants to run their mills efficiently. Meanwhile, the government has raised gas prices sizably without any proper reason or explanation strengthening the notion that it lacks any economic agenda and believes in mini budgets. The latest price increase, sixth energy hike in four months, will fuel inflation that rose at fastest pace in 30 years. The government says annual gas subsidies amount to 35.2 billion rupees and it aims to cut it by 11.3 billion, a claim yet to be verified, said Dr Murtaza Mughal, President Pakistan Economy Watch. The 31 percent hike that is highest in the region is the most damaging one for country; it amounts to elimination of poor instead of poverty. The increase will hike cost of production and unleash inflation hitting poor who have over 95 percent share in production and about 4 percent negligible share in resources. Also, it has socked textile and cement producers who were expecting some relief as cost of doing business has been increasing. It will also hit these vital sectors and exports will be threatened.